Fly Of The Week

Woven Dragonfly Nymph
By Skip Morris, Port Ludlow, WA, USA
Drawings by Richard Bunse
Excerpt from The Art of Tying the Nymph
Published by Frank Amato Publications

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Fly Tying Terms
Woven Dragonfly Nymph

I've watched Darrel Martin tie his dragonfly nymph twice. The second time, Darrel described the steps in detail and answered all my questions. I had assumed by the look of it that the Woven Dragonfly Nymph would be time consuming to tie; it isn't. Actually, the version that Darrel tied for me is slightly simpler than the one he describes in his excellent book Fly-Tying Methods.

Though it may seem difficult, the woven body can be created quite easily and quickly; the trick is to cut the thread just before weaving, and to turn the vise away from you, so that you are sighting down the shank with the hook's bend nearest you, before you weave. Another trick is to make a template and use it to mark the leather before cutting out the under body. An old soft-leather shoe is a good source for the leather, but you can build up the under body in whatever manner you see fit. Darrel particularly like the leather because it soaks up water and and because it can be shaped by the placement and tightness of the thread wraps. You can buy a whole dyed rabbit pelt for the Woven Dragonfly's legs, or you can purchase a small bag of rabbit hide cut into strips for tying a pattern called a Zonker.

Materials List:

Hook:  Heavy wire, 3X long, (humped shank preferred), size 6 (the hook shown is a Daiichi 1270).

Thread:  Brown 3/0.

Eyes:  Brown vernille (chenille as a substitute).

Under Body:  Medium-soft leather.

Abdomen:  Brown and chartreuse or brown and olive vernille, or ultra-chenille (chenille as a substitute).

Legs:  Brown rabbit fur in a dubbing loop.

Wing Case and Top of Head:  A small body feather - hen saddle, partridge, etc. - glued to a lady's nylon stocking, or simply lacquered, and then trimmed leaving a "v" notch in its tips (a quill section coated with Tuffilm, or even swiss straw make good substitutes, as do other durable, flat materials).

Thorax:  Any absorbent, brown dubbing.

Tying Instructions:

1. Cover the shank with open spirals of thread. Cut two half-teardrop shapes as shown from medium-soft leather, and secure one on one side of the shank with tight thread turns. Secure the other piece of leather on the other side in the same manner. You can control the shape of the leather underbody with the tightness and placement of the thread turns.

2. Just behind the hook's eye, secure a length of brown vernille atop the shank by crisscrossing the thread over it and the shank. Bunch one end of the vernille up along the shank from behind and secure it with thread turns; the result should be a tiny loop. Do the same with the other end of the vernille. Trim the remaining ends and bind them. The photograph shows one eye formed, the other yet to be formed.

3. Spiral the thread back to the bend and tie in a length of brown vernille on one side of the shank and a length of chartreuse (or olive) vernille on the other. Whip finish the thread and cut it. Turn the vise so that its jaws are pointing away from you, and then weave the vernille into an abdomen as shown in the illustration. Pull back a bit on the vernille as you weave to keep the weaving tight.

Weaving an Abdomen:

1. Start with you vise turned so that the hook points away from you. Hold one strand of vernille in your left and and one in your right.

2. Swing your left hand, and the vernille, under the hook, and then to the hook's right side. Despite what you might think, you will continue to hold the vernille throughout the weaving process - you will not release it, nor will you switch either strand from one hand to the other.

3. Swing your right hand across the top of the shank, under your left hand, to the left side of the hook.

4. Swing your left hand under the hook and then to the left side and back against the dark vernille. You now have your first woven lock on the right side of the under body.

5. Swing your right hand over the top of the hook to the right. Now you have a lock on each side of the abdomen. Continue this sequence until you've completed the woven abdomen.

4. Clamp your hackle plies onto the ends of the vernille; this frees your hand. Start the thread again over the ends of the vernille, and plenty of tight thread turns, and then trim the loose end of the vernille and thread. From a dubbing loop, carefully slip some rabbit fur into it, twist the loop tight, and wrap it forward in two or three turns. Secure the end of the loop with tight thread turns and trim.

5. Trim an elongated shape, with a "V" notch in its tip, from a body feather, the same shape as the feather on the needle shown. The feather should be lacquered, or glued to a lady's nylon stocking (see the next step, #6). Advance the thread to just behind the hooks' eye and tie the feather in by its steam, projecting off the eye. Test the feather's length by folding it back- if it reaches back about 3/8" over the abdomen, fine; if not, adjust its length by tying it in further up or down its stem or by trimming the feather down.

6. Dub all around the thorax and eyes and end with the dubbed thread projecting immediately in front of the dubbing-loop legs, behind the eyes. Fold back the head-wing case feather and secure it with turns of dubbed thread. Angle the thread sharply under the eyes to the hook's eye. Build a small thread head, add a whip finish, add head cement. Another approach, which suits my style, is to build a thread collar behind the eyes, whip finish the collar, and add head cement to it, rather than advancing the thread to the hook's eye.

Darrel prefers that the feather that forms the wing case and head has a backing of nylon mesh from a lady's stocking. The stocking is lightly stretched over a needle-point hoop, and then a batch of feathers are glued to the mesh with PVC glue (glue used for PVC pipe). I've had good results using Dave's Flexament for this.

Fishing Suggestions

All dragonfly-nymph imitations are fished in lakes and slow streams and are made to swim slowly, quickly, or in tiny repeated bursts. ~ Skip Morris

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